During an interview over the summer, Happy Days star Henry Winkler touched on the strange point in his career when he couldn’t get an audition, but at the same time he was too big for smaller roles. Coming off the success of the hit 1970s sitcom, the talented actor was caught between a rock and a hard place.
One would think that Winkler’s breakout role as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli would have set him up for a lifetime’s worth of auditions. However, that turned out to not be the case for Winkler once Happy Days ended in 1984.
Ironically, showrunners didn’t intend for the Fonz to be a main character. But after the show debuted in 1974, it didn’t take long for Fonzie to start stealing scenes. He quickly became a fan favorite, and showrunners increased his role on the show exponentially. Winkler went on to become a household name. And Fonzie became one of the most beloved characters in American television history.
Yet the actor struggled to find work in the ’80s once Happy Days went off-air. Winkler couldn’t get auditions, and the few gigs the Fonzie actor did earn he didn’t even get his name in the credits.
“I felt very left out that I couldn’t get an audition and I was very frustrated. But I was never defeated,” Henry Winkler said in a June interview. “When I did a TV movie, I was told, ‘We can’t put you in the credits. Why? Because you were the Fonz and you will knock the balance of the movie out of alignment.'”
“But then they said, ‘During the test screenings, when you walked on screen you got applause.’ Oh, okay. And of course I did the press. And I just thought, what a great closing of the circle,” he added.
‘Happy Days’ Star Talks Falling Off the ‘Mountaintop’ of Acting When Show Ended
While speaking in the same interview, Henry Winkler continued to detail some of his rougher years in Hollywood. As Happy Days came to a close, his acting work seemed to dry up overnight. Thankfully, he found his way as a producer and even brought one famous ’80s show to ABC himself.
“When Happy Days finished, ABC said if I brought them a show I liked and it appealed to them, they would put it straight on to television. They gave me an office and an assistant,” Winkler said. “And the first show that I brought to ABC (with my partner at the time) was MacGyver.”
Winkler’s first foray into behind-the-scenes Hollywood work obviously went well. MacGyver aired for seven seasons from 1985 to 1992. Additionally, Hollywood greenlit a parody movie and rebooted the show in 2016. Yet Winkler knew his real talents lied in acting. Unfortunately, though for the Fonzie actor, he couldn’t find any solid roles for the next eight years.
“But as an actor I went from the mountaintop – 55,000 letters a week – and slid right into the valley for the next eight, nine years. I started to produce because I couldn’t get hired as an actor from 1983 all the way to 1991.”